THINGS HAVING FALLEN APART: We humans believe the darnedest things!

FRIDAY, JANUARY 15, 2021

Making the rubble bounce: Today, we perform a confession.

In the past eight or nine days, we've often thought of Charles Mann's widely-acclaimed book, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. 

Mann's book appeared in 2005. His sequel bears a related title. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created.

(According to the leading authority on that second volume, Mann "argues that Columbus paved the way to the homogenocene, a particular feature of the anthropocene that is marked by a global homogenization of (agricultural) species, diseases, and tools brought about by the migration and transport that set in with the discovery of the new world." People, we're just saying.)

Mann's initial volume is one of the two books we've most admired in our 23 years on this campus. We'd pair those books with the two we've most enjoyed because of the ways they went instructively wrong. 

We may build next week's reports around those four seminal volumes.

Back to Mann's initial book, his 1491. We can think of no other book which has the power to amaze with each and every rereading. 

Mann's "revelations" are no longer new, but they always seem new to us. We'll confess that the passage we've been thinking about involves the death of the Inka, and its aftermath.

We humans! All through our long and war-inclined history, we humans have been able to believe the darnedest things. 

The Inka was the ruler of the Inca empire. According to the leading authority (and to Mann), it was "the largest empire in pre-Columbian America" and one of the largest and most advanced administrative states in the world at that time. 

The Inca empire was a masterwork of human organization. That said, the Inka was held in such high regard that his advice would still be sought even after his death.

They couldn't let the Inka go. We'll give you a tiny glimpse:

MANN (page 98): Because the royal mummies were not considered dead, their successors obviously could not inherit their wealth. Each Inka’s panaqa [royal lineage] retained all of his possessions forever, including his palaces, residences and shrines...The mummies spoke through female mediums who represented the panaqa’s surviving courtiers or their descendants.

[...]

Soon after arriving in Qosqo, Pizarro’s companion Miguel de Estete saw a parade of defunct emperors. They were brought out on litters, "seated on their thrones and surrounded by women with flywhisks in their hands, who ministered to them with as much respect as if they had been alive."

The royal mummies were paraded about and consulted as if they were alive. 

Throughout his book, Mann stresses the fact that Europeans of the era could match their American counterparts, crazy belief and cruel practice for crazy belief and practice. This helps establish the point we wish to advance:

We humans! Wherever we've been found, we've been inclined to believe the darnedest things!

Why have we been thinking about the death of the Inka this week? We offer that new revelation below. For now, just consider the range of crazy beliefs which have driven American politics over the past thirty years.

At present, a not insubstantial number of people believe that world government is dominated by a cabal of cannibalistic child abusers. This belief, or something like it, is or was the foundation of the so-called QAnon "theory."

All the way back in 2016, people believed that Hillary Clinton was trafficking children for sexual purposes out of the basement of a D.C. pizza joint. For whatever it may be worth, Michael Flynn's son and business partner seemed to be part of that true-believing vanguard.

Many people have believed, and still do believe, various things of this type. Decades earlier, Rush Limbaugh strongly suggested that Hillary Clinton had been involved in the (suggested) murder of Vince Foster, a long-time friend and associate of the Clintons who had taken his own life. 

Many people believed that insinuation. At this same time, one of the nation's holiest men—the extremely holy Reverend Falwell—was peddling the Clinton Chronicles videotape, an attempt to further the widespread claim that Clinton and Clinton had been involved in a wide range of murders.

Plus the drug-running, of course! 

As of 1999, Gennifer Flowers was running a for-profit web site which was strongly promoting the long-standing claim about the many murders. Being human, it's possible that she even believed it. 

During this period, a wide range of upper-end mainstream liberal pundits had anointed Flowers as the most credible person on Earth. (Frank Rich was one such seer.)  Chris Matthews proceeded to give her a half-hour on Hardball, during which time he made a large point of telling her how incredibly hot she was. 

This was shortly after Matthews almost got the Washington journalist killed. All the other humans pretended that this crazy behavior made sense.

(You never hear about these things because of the code of silence which obtains among our massively self-impressed tribe's "favorite reporters and friends." If you simply repeat what the host/hostess said, you will never go wrong.)

During that same period, mainstream pundits invented and pushed the claim that Al Gore had a major, psychiatric-level "problem with the truth." They promoted this confected claim for years, sending George Bush to the White House. 

They invented a series of wacky claims Gore was said to have said. Virtually no one ever pushed back against this astounding group behavior. Inevitably, many people believed the things they heard about Gore.

Starting in 2011, Donald J. Trump invented himself as the king of the birthers. He kept it up until circumstance forced him to issue a "hostage video"-style recantation at some point in 2016.  

Many people believed that claim! 

When Trump announced his campaign in June 2015, he'd already been pimping the claim for four years, but Rachel Maddow made a point of saying that she had no personal objection to Mister Trump. Her drinking buddy, Greta van Susteren, had been Trump's "birther caddy" on Fox News during those long, slimy years.

We humans! There's nothing so stupid that we won't believe it, or at least avert our gaze from those who are making the claim. As a matter of anthropology, our astonishing lack of basic discernment is a very large part of our species' profile. Or so major experts have said.

It's also true that we're strongly inclined to construe the world in a highly simplistic tribal manner. More specifically, we're strongly inclined to create and demonize the other, observing such rules as these:

Rules for fashioning others:

1) Never speak or listen to others. Never ask others to explain what they think or believe. When journalists do so, complain!

2) Heighten the grievances of the elect. Spend no time trying to think of the best ways to win over (some of the) others.

3) Always turn to punishment-based approaches and ideation. Always look for ways to criminalize the conduct of others. 

4) Always heighten fear of others. Assume that the others are all just alike. More specifically, assume that the others are all just like the most heinous individuals among them.

5) Invent a handful of highly simplistic tribal Storylines. Cling to those Storylines as if to life itself. 

These rules are very widely observed in the streets of Our Town. They dominate life on the "cable news" channels most frequently heard in our homes.

We humans believe the darnedest things! We're also inclined to construe the world in the darnedest, most simplistic ways.

In our reports this week, we've stressed one bit of simple-mindedness which has been widely observed in Our Town. We've noted the fact that we don't seem to believe in the basics of psychology / psychiatry. 

More precisely, we don't seem to believe in the existence of "mental illness."

Is the ruling commander-in-chief in the grip of powerful "psychopathologies?" If so, should we pity him for his disorder, the approach Bob Dylan once suggested?

(Removing his ability to cause harm would come first, of course.)

Should we pity the commander-in-chief for his apparent disorder? Here in Our Town, we look through a moral lens only. We seek to criminalize and to punish. As with Michael Flynn, so with us:

We are very strongly inclined to want to "lock them up."

This is why we've been recalling the death of the Inka this week. By instinct, we can't seem to let our own Inka go, any more than those earlier humans could.

Only a people as fearful as we could miss the humor in our current approach, in which we want to remove the president from office even after he's left office. Even after our Inka is gone, we'll be looking for a way to make the rubble bounce.

We're not saying this approach is wrong. We're just saying it's humorous.

We want to lock our Inka up. With respect to impeachment, we want to keep making the rubble bounce, even after he's left office!

Beyond that, we want to bar him from ever seeking office again. 

The constitutional authority for such a move is extremely unclear.  (For the rare explainer, click here.) Even we humans can probably see how this action would heighten the perceived martyrdom of the disordered former commander-in-chief.

That said, our tribunes keep telling us that it only takes a simple majority vote. We're that sure that we couldn't win a future debate about so plainly disordered a person!

For ourselves, we're not saying that this week's impeachment was the wrong thing to do. It may even have been the best approach to a disastrous situation which offered no good approach.

We are saying that our vast desire to punish, and to keep punishing, is "human, all-too human." In the present circumstance, it's an addition to the atavistic way we've refused to imagine the possibility that the absurdly disordered person in question is some version of mentally ill.

Long ago and far away, Dylan seemed to suggest that we should "pity" such a person. He described the commander to a T:

That man who with his fingers cheats,
Who lies with every breath.

Who passionately hates his life
And likewise fears his death.

[...]

Who eats but is not satisfied;
Who hears but does not see.
Who falls in love with wealth itself
And turns his back on me.
Should we pity such a person—a person who suffered the sociopathic upbringing Mary Trump describes in her best-selling book? 

Instead, we're so atavistic, so recognizably human, that we want to make the rubble bounce. We want to chase this apparent sociopath all the way to the gates of Hell.

At this site, we've polled the youthful analysts. They all feel sorry for the child who was raised by the deeply disordered Fred Trump.

These youngsters have all seen Citizen Kane. They all understand the concept of Rosebud—possibly the most famous single word in Hollywood history.

The Inka is dead, these youngsters say. Long live our pitiful Inka, who was mistreated as a child and seems to be mentally ill.

These youthful analysts know how to feel. They face a hard time in a town without pity, in a town very much like our own.

Full disclosure: Our Inka could still start a nuclear war. (We've also spent years avoiding this fact.) Active pity for the Inka only begins after he's been disarmed.

In our view, our Inka seems to be very badly disordered. In Our Town, we've spent four or five years refusing to discuss and explore that apparent fact.

We humans! We sent Cordelia (Bandy Lee) away. But we'll be keeping the Inka around. We'll cart him around on his litter!


35 comments:

  1. As soon as Republicans quit electing monsters like Trump, McConnell, Cruz, Hawley, Boebert, Greene, etc, etc, who make a point of their hatred of Democrats and their refusal to even discuss anything, not to mention lying to their voters about the election and trying to overturn it in some sort of fascist coup, maybe we can have a dialog.

    You notice “we” nominate Obama, Biden, etc, who make a point of seeking bipartisanship, only to be shat upon. The GOP want Trump. That is who they are. Almost 100% of them. There aren’t “some” willing to give up their virulent hatred.

    A hatred apparently matched by our blogger.

    So spare us your clueless grade school “advice” offered in bad faith, mother fucker.

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    1. Another diamond. A++. You're great.

      Delete
    2. I don't believe mh really needs a reviewer. It would be sufficient just to agree or disagree without the critique or grade.

      When a person assigns a grade to someone else, it implicitly puts them in a one-up position and I don't think you've done anything here to earn that.

      If you are being sarcastic, then those of us who like and agree with mh are going to miss whatever point you are trying to make.

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    3. A+. Great as well. You're amazing too. It's like you're the same person! Genius!!!!!!!

      Delete
    4. We are not the same person.

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    5. I, for one, think the grading of comments that A - 12:41 offers is terrific, and my opinion on that will not change, whether he or she rates this comment or not. I find those ratings very funny, and the Not mh and Not not mh additions, regardless of where they originate, are great, too.

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  2. It seems wrong to me to equate the widespread cultural beliefs of an entire empire (the Incas) with the fringe beliefs of Q-Anon, simply because Somerby considers them both strange.

    Somerby describes the mummified Inkas but that is a religious belief and is no more irrational than the Catholic practice of taking communion or the baptism of the already dead (by proxy) practiced by Mormons. These religious practices are not the same as the political fantasies of the cult-like Q-Anon believers, who are being deliberately misled for political purposes and who have specific political goals which they are pursuing by violence.

    Further, by equating these Q-Anon followers with the mainstream Inca beliefs, Somerby attempts to legitimize fringe beliefs that do not have the widespread support of the American people but are limited to a subset of conservative Republicans. Their accusations against people like Tom Hanks and Hillary Clinton are out-of-bounds and unsupported by evidence and inappropriate within the context of our current society. That was not true of the Inca people's practices and beliefs about their dead leaders, in their social and cultural context and time period.

    Even undergrads are taught not to evaluate customs of other cultures outside of their own context. It is a fundamental error to do so in both history and anthropology. Somerby was no doubt taught this at Harvard (assuming he took anything except philosophy courses) but he now uses this book (which he claims to admire) to further his excuse of Q-Anon and Trump himself. That is a misuse of history and an abuse of the Inca culture. But Somerby would no doubt consider it too PC of me to say so, since he increasingly aligns himself with people who care only about themselves.

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  3. "Only a people as fearful as we could miss the humor in our current approach, in which we want to remove the president from office even after he's left office. Even after our Inka is gone, we'll be looking for a way to make the rubble bounce."

    Is Somerby really so stupid that he doesn't understand the point of convicting Trump after he leaves office?

    Does Somerby really think that Trump will be dead (like the Inka) after he leaves office? That his political or physical life will end? Of course it won't, and it remains to hold Trump accountable for his actions and especially his crimes while IN office.

    Does Somerby miss the point that Incas carrying their Inkas on litters was an honor to those past leaders, not a punishment, as continuing to hold Trump to account would be?

    The Catholic church engages in processions involving carrying an effigy of a dead saint, to honor him or her, is part of the ceremony. Catholics pray to saints and seek wisdom in their prayers. Is that any different than the Inca procession?

    Somerby keeps insisting that Trump must be crazy because Bandy Lee wrote a book (collected some essays). That isn't any kind of legitimate psychiatric diagnosis. Trump has committed high crimes and misdemeanors and now we as a nation are pursuing our legal remedies under our constitution. This has nothing to do with craziness or Incas. And Somerby is an asshole for pretending that liberals are doing something wrong by trying to hold this despicable man and his followers responsible for what they have done.

    Somerby should read books. He doesn't seem to understand them very well and he seems bent on using other people's words to lend credibility to ideas he superimposes on them, his own crooked ideas (not theirs). That is an abuse of these other authors, who have their own beliefs and would most likely be dismayed to see how Somerby corrupts them.

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  4. "Our Inka could still start a nuclear war."

    And what should we do about that? Somerby blathers on about pity (that begins after he is out of office) but doesn't tell us how to avoid the conflagration.

    Are we supposed to humor Trump? Do we appease him (that worked great with Hitler, another deranged Inka)? Pence refuses to remove him, but Somerby has never called for Trump's removal -- he says that would undermine the will of those who voted for Trump. Trump has never criticized the Senate for refusing to remove Trump, in fact, he argued against removing him.

    So this strikes me as a plea for kind treatment of Trump after he leaves (or is carried out of) office. I disagree. If Trump had ever suffered consequences for his misbehavior as a child, he wouldn't be the person he is today. It is odd that Somerby calls Trump an abused child, but doesn't see that excusing his present behavior would be just as abusive and would show other would-be looters and criminals that our nation will impose no consequences for bad behavior.

    Somerby also doesn't understand that the unwillingness to prosecute criminals revictimizes those who have been wronged, the victims of that person's crimes. In this case, it is the nation that has been grossly harmed. That's why people are saying that healing cannot occur without justice and accountability. Trump must be tried and his accomplices must be identified and rooted out of their positions of power. And that is going to happen, whether Somerby urges pity or not.

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    1. Typo: "Trump has never" should be "Somerby has never..."

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  5. "This belief, or something like it, is or was the foundation of the so-called QAnon "theory.""

    No, dear Bob, your liberal-zombie cult says that something like it is or was the foundation of the so-called QAnon "theory."

    Which means, naturally, that something like it has nothing whatsoever to do with any 'QAnon theories'. Comprende?

    "Decades earlier, Rush Limbaugh strongly suggested that Hillary Clinton had been involved in the (suggested) murder of Vince Foster, a long-time friend and associate of the Clintons who had taken his own life. "

    We have no idea if she was or she wasn't, but we know one thing: Rush Limbaugh never pretended to be a journalist, let alone a journalist of The Paper Of Record or some such. Therefore your fake outrage is utterly misdirected, we're sorry to say.

    "For ourselves, we're not saying that this week's impeachment was the wrong thing to do."

    Or yeah? And we loved it. We must admit: we have always had a soft spot for circus and clowns. No matter, dear Bob, de gustibus non disputandum est, as they say.

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    1. Dude, if you don’t have what we call in science ‘facts’ or as a lawyer ‘proof’, that can admitted into evidence, than yes there is proof that the Clinton’s committed no crimes. Least not murder. That is in fact how reality works. You seem to live by an anything goes nothing matters, credo. You are about to find with the collapse of all things neo and climate chaos, that all your unreal ties have come home to roost. Oh, and why, to overcome the 2nd law of thermodynamics you need energy as in energy or money that can obtain it. We are all out of energy relative to what we need to keep up and running.

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    2. “Rush Limbaugh never pretended to be a journalist...” Oh I see, you need to be a journalist to be held to the high standard of not spewing bullshit for a living. Which excludes you from the fourth estate. Reminds me of the case against Hannity in which the judge ruled that he couldn’t be held responsible for slander since his viewership understands not to take him seriously. Which is, of course, your problem as well. Let me guess: the three of you share a commonality: your highest academic achievement was a high school diploma.

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  6. "Many people have believed, and still do believe..."

    We don't know whether people really believed those things about Hillary, or whether they were simply saying them for political gain.

    Somerby always suggests that Trump believes his own lies, whereas it is more likely, given his personality disorders, that he does not but is lying instrumentally (for gain). Somerby has no idea what Trump believes, but it is consistent with his own narrative that Trump is so crazy that he believes a bunch of weird things.

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  7. TDH's near obsession about whether Trump is "mentally ill" seems relevant to him, because if so, the proper attitude should be to pity the poor bastard. As TDH, to his credit, has acknowledged, there's a subjective element as to whether someone like Trusmp is "mentally ill." There are all kinds of mental illnesses. Bandy Lee has never examined Trump in person. His niece hasn't seen him in 17 years, and seems to have a bias - she blames Trump for disinheriting her. There are thousands of shrinks of various stripes. I am not aware that there is any consensus among them about whether this is a case of some type of mental illness or psychopathology. TDH has a strong Pollyanna-like tendency. He wants us to pity Trump,as the unfortunate victim of this psychopathology. By the same logic, the correct attitude toward murderers, rapists, serial killers, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot etc etc must be that we pity them. It seems to be a misguided approach. As another commenter commented a couple of days ago, almost everyone has some type of psychological issue. Few are perfectly sane.

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  8. "Her drinking buddy, Greta van Susteren, had been Trump's "birther caddy" on Fox News during those long, slimy years."

    Whoa, 'slimy'? Are you feeling okay, dear Bob? You sound constipated.

    Demigod Barry's own literary agent advertised Demigod Barry as being born in Kenia. People wanted know (for some reason) if that was true or not. After all, Demigod Barry was a public figure, y'know.

    All Demigod Barry had to do satisfy their curiosity was to produce a full version of his birth certificate, which he refused to do for years.

    Your zombie Comrades crave Commander's tax returns, so how come it disturbs you so much that Others might want to see Demigod Barry's birth certificate? Are you a hypocrite, dear Bob?

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    1. Who [family blog] cares? Do you? Why? In the end we all self contradict, doesn’t make it hypocrisy. Maybe too subtle a distinction for, ya. I do wish reality were simpler but it ain’t.

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    2. Don't feed the resident troll please.

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    3. Feed me dicks

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    4. We don’t have the least bit of interest in your Russian tool’s tax returns at this point. The DA in the Southern District of New York will make a career out of them beginning January 21. Should be fun. The AG of Georgia may have a few plans as well. The Senate can take their time mulling over what to do with this clown, but it won’t matter. His brand is trashed and his favorite German bank isn’t gonna be hooking him up with Russian money any more. He’s radioactive.

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  9. "Only a people as fearful as we could miss the humor in our current approach, in which we want to remove the president from office even after he's left office."

    Don't forget the lady at the rally with a 'Don't Tread on Me' flag who was trampled to death.

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  10. Somerby doesn't think the capitol police were complicit with the rioters. He has called this a storyline, criticizing reporters such as Gay. Here is more evidence that Somerby is wrong (from Rawstory):

    "BuzzFeed News justice reporter Zoe Tillman on Friday flagged a recently filed criminal complaint against two alleged Trump rioters who both say a Capitol Police officers shook their hands and congratulated them after they broke into the building.

    The two alleged rioters, identified by prosecutors as Robert L. Bauer and Edward E. Hemenway II, shared nearly identical stories about their encounter with an unidentified law enforcement official during the Capitol riots.

    Tired of ads? Want to support our progressive journalism? Click to learn more.
    "Both men remembered encountering a police officer after they entered," prosecutors allege. "According to Bauer, the police officer grabbed his hand, shook it, and said, 'It's your house now.' Bauer believed that the policeman was acting out of fear. Hemenway similarly recalled the officer shaking Hemenway hand and Hemenway said, 'Sorry,' to which the officer replied, 'It's your house now, man,' and gave Hemenway a half-hug."

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    1. Facts are in evidence, way more than are out there (by which I mean NSA data). The rest calls for speculation which can not be included in a fact based argument. To be clear. Wait. Patience.

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  11. Ok, I find these post get me thinking about things in a challenging way. So keep it up. Often they are very amusing as well. But today, pftt, the third person point view and arguing in parallel of the Incas and our polity, I don’t think so. Unless, there is a meta joke going on and I don’t get. Read Jared Diamond, the Incas were rabble by 1491,2,3. Long gone. The mummy stuff no way. And it was always going to that outcome. As for trump, he is both crazy & insane. Insane legally means he can’t be held responsible, though I still would like to see him hang. I just don’t like him. Never have. And most of country doesn’t either. Clinton, Gore (who really is trapped in Citizen Kane), Busch, Barry (Obama), Biden. I don’t care about in the least. Nor does 80% of everybody else. Democrats or Republicans doesn’t matter, neoliberalism is the only game in town yours or mine. Understand?

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    Replies
    1. Biden sneaking the $15/ hour minimum wage into the COVID relief fund, shows how clever the neoliberals really are.

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